So, where to store all those bits and pieces that I just can't bear to throw away?
I mean those shells with interesting patterns; tiny pieces of driftwood with an interesting shape and lines of texture; a tiny bright coloured bow that once topped a gift; a Buddhist prayer bead bracelet given to me in Kyoto; a dragonfly that was made from green, pliable leaves and has now totally dried out but is so cleverly made that I have to keep it so that I can continue to admire it; seed pods collected on walks; tiny offcuts of painted and stitched textiles; the top of a miniature teapot that belonged to my grandmother - all that was left after it was knocked to the floor; a gold paper doily that my mother-in-law once made into a little basket to hang on the Christmas tree; brightly coloured feathers from the local parrots;... and butterfly wings.
Well, I decided that it was silly to have them cluttering up boxes in my studio, so I put them in a typesetter's drawer, and sat it in the middle of the dining table. It's easy to move when there's more than two of us for a meal, and it often provides me with inspiration. Guests wandering by the table love to inspect the contents, too.
Of course, it gets dusty, and the dust storms that we've had in the last few weeks added quite a bit to the layer already there. So, I emptied it, dusted everything, and changed some of the contents around. This time, each row has a colour theme.
I recently came across a commencement address given by Paula Jorde Bloom at Louis University in the US. It resonated with me for a couple of reasons, firstly because it encompasses much of the discussion I see on Art Quilt discussion groups about developing oneself and one's art and secondly because in viewing my life in retrospect I realise that the times I learnt the most have always been the times when I was furthest from my comfort zone. If this extract resonates with you as well, you can read the full address here
".... we acquire wisdom by affirming our ignorance. You know, all our adult lives we strive to become knowledgeable, competent, and skilled in our professional practice. We pat ourselves on the back every time we achieve a new credential, certificate, or degree. We applaud our achievements as though filling up the shopping cart of our accomplishments is the mark of an educated mind. The irony is that true wisdom comes from the admission of our ignorance, from being open to discovering just how much we don’t know, how much we still need to learn....
"I believe the most vibrant people I’ve met in my life hold a transformational view of human growth and change. They see themselves as active agents in describing, interpreting, and shaping their behavior. In other words, they are self-mentors. The great Roman philosopher Cicero is credited with saying, 'No one can give you better advice than yourself.' Well, that is the essence of being a self-mentor. Self-mentoring means taking stock of the parts of yourself you relish and want to preserve as well as those you’d like to change or toss out the window. It is a conscious commitment to move toward personal excellence by celebrating ignorance....
"Being a self-mentor rests squarely on our ability to be reflective and be self-aware. It means knowing our needs and values, our strengths and limitations, our passions, and our idiosyncratic quirks. It means having a deep appreciation of what makes each of us a unique specimen on this planet. On a deeper level, it means knowing how we react in different situations and accepting full responsibility for our feelings and actions.
"Being a self-mentor is difficult because it involves an ongoing assessment of our assumptions, beliefs, and values, and the mental models that shape our behavior and guide our actions. It also means having a clear picture of our internal motives — those things that drive us to say what we say and do what we do. Peeling away the layers of our motivations is not always a comfortable process, but it is necessary if our goal is to become a person known for personal integrity."